Secret police? Virginia considers bill to withhold all officers’ names

Secret police? Virginia considers bill to withhold all officers’ names
Image: YouTube screen grab (via GlobalLeaks News)

It started with a reporter’s attempt to learn whether problem police officers were moving from department to department. It resulted in legislation that is again bringing national scrutiny to the Virginia General Assembly: a bill that could keep all Virginia police officers’ names secret.

In a climate where the actions of police nationwide are being watched as never before, supporters say the bill is needed to keep officers safe from people who may harass or harm them. But the effort has drawn the attention of civil rights groups and others who say police should be moving toward more transparency — not less — to ensure that troubled officers are found and removed.

If it is made law, experts say the restriction would be unprecedented nationwide.

The Virginia Senate has already approved Senate Bill 552, which would classify the names of all police officers and fire marshals as “personnel records,” exempting them from mandatory disclosure under the state’s freedom of information law. The Republican-dominated Virginia House will consider the bill in hearings starting Thursday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has not taken a position on the bill yet, his spokesman said.

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